Interview: NYS Music catches up with Psychedelic Jam Trio Cycles during their NY run

Denver, Colorado psychedelic jam-trio Cycles are making their way through the northeast this week, performing a series of shows throughout New York state as part of an extensive 2019 fall tour. Last night, the band played at Buffalo Iron Works, with Colorado’s The Magic Beans and Connecticut’s Eggy, for a commemorative night celebrating the venue’s tenth anniversary. This past Wednesday, Cycles sat down for an interview with NYS Music in Brooklyn, NY, just before performing a set at famed music club The Knitting Factory.

This was a first time appearance for the trio’s drummer Collin O’Brien, not only at the venue, but in Manhattan altogether. “I haven’t been to New York in like fourteen years,” he told NYS Music. “I’ve been freaking out walking around all day.”

It was a return, however, for the band’s guitarist Patrick Harvey and bassist Tucker McClung, whom have performed as Cycles in NYC before. “We’ve played New York a few times,” said McClung. “There was Brooklyn Bowl, and then we played at American Beauty once, for a Phish after party. That was really fun.”

“There’s a really sick jam from that [Phish] show,” said Harvey.

Sick jams were definitely in full supply for their The Knitting Factory show, which saw the band deliver a full range of musical styles, from jazz to funky-metal to soulful rock, across a dizzying set of songs that were all linked together via impeccable technical abilities.

While new to the city, O’Brien is also a relatively new addition to Cycles, at least as a full time member. The Chicago-born drummer moved to the band’s home base of Denver earlier this year and jumped on board with the band just in time for huge gigs like Arise Music Festival, Peach Music Festival, and Resonance Music Festival just last weekend. “I love it,” he said. “This has been the best summer of my life.”

Cycles’ Drummer Collin O’Brien. Photo: Tara Gracer

He certainly fits into Cycles’ live musical experiment, with constantly shifting drumbeats and tempos thrown up against barrages of shrieking guitar solos from Harvey and slap-happy bass rips from McClung. As a unit, the band navigates an amazing balance between improvisational spontaneity and technical precision, and the results fuse together unique, often even quirky, song material with a sustained sense of freewheeling whimsy. A sense that, musically, anything could happen at any moment.

In their Knitting Factory show, they showed this resolutely. Some songs bled out into super spacey, affecting moments of trippy space rock. Other moments saw battles for highest intensity between chromatic guitar picking and dramatic drums fills—sometimes while McClung was balancing his bass on one finger like a vaudeville performer. At one awesome point in the set, Harvey broke from a melodic guitar solo to incorporate audio samples of an eighties’ sounding, glam rock tune into a hard-driving metal-funk jam from bass and drums. Does that sound odd? Absolutely. It is exhilarating and actually pretty groovy.

“I think when we first started, it used to be challenging to make it sound really full,” commenting on the three-piece driving force behind such heavily improvisational shows night after night. “But now, it just feels like I get to do whatever I want all the time. We’ve been playing together so much over the past three years, I feel like we all know where to get in and fill space, or where to leave space.”

Tucker McClung, Bass.

“Yeah, there is a lot of freedom in not having a lot of people on stage,” said O’Brien. “It’s easier to communicate ideas more instantaneously.” This sense of freedom is what gives the band the inspiration to perform a live musical game show next month, at Denver’s Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom (where they will actually have many people on stage).

Tucker broke the concept down to NYS: “It’ll be one set of us performing as Cycles, but we’ll open up the night with a set of this game show. It’s going to be a super interactive experience. We might have as many as 30 to 40 people coming up intermittently and participating in the show, and we’ll be the host band for this Johnny Carson mixed with Wheel of Fortune kind of experience.”

“And,” added Harvey, “we have a game show host who is the freakin’ man! Dennis Craig. Definitely the best host any game show could ask for.”

“It’ll be a healthy amount of uncertainty,” said O’Brien. “Stuff will go wrong in the best possible way.”

Cycles Guitarist Patrick Harvey. Photo: Miles Hurley

The rest of Cycles’ schedule coming ahead has them linking up with jam scene contemporaries like The Magic Beans, Sunsquabi, and others. The trio looks forward to a huge hometown show in December: a debut at Denver’s The Fillmore Auditorium opening up for Umphrey’s McGee. 

“I used to see them all over the place when I lived in Chicago,” said O’Brien. “They’re so nice. They’re just some normal guys that are like really, really freaking talented.” McClung, meanwhile, talked about seeing the six-piece staple act for the first time at this year’s Resonance Music Fest. “Yeah, they did an acoustic set which was pretty awesome. I was getting really pumped watching it.”

This week, catch Cycles as they finish their New York stretch with a show tonight at Syracuse’s The Westcott Theatre, followed by shows next week at Olive’s in Nyack and at The Hollow in Albany. While this season of touring seems to continue a road-tested sense of hardcore gigging for the band, they show no sign of slowing down, an instead an invigorated and grateful attitude for the experience.

When you’re as blessed to be doing what we’re doing, it’s foolish to be agitated at the world. Because you have this awesome opportunity to rock out. There’s nothing better than this. If there was something better than this, I’d be doing it.

Patrick Harvey, Guitar.

For more information about the band, their music, and their upcoming shows, head to their website.